Today is 1 December.
Why am I tell you that?
All three strike a chord with me.
I have always loved advent calendars and can confirm that chocolate ones are the best!
I remember a drama company coming into talk to my sixth form on World Aids Day, and I’ve never forgotten the impact of their performance.
Finally, over the past decade or so, I have worked for myself and have a small business, Natalie Trice Communications, as well as being the founder of PR School, a side line which gives people the skills and confidence to go out and talk to the media, and shine. Oh, I also have small charitable trust, DDH UK, that supports thousands of people around the world dealing with hip dysplasia – a condition my son has and one we found little help for a decade ago.
In a life gone by, one with first class flights, business accounts and an uber-efficient assistant who knew exactly when my caffeine levels were on the way down, and needed topping up, work was very different. I had some amazing jobs in the world of tech, TV and charity.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up, and it wasn’t like I’d had my heart set on a career in PR after watching Ab Fab with my flatmates in our student digs in Leeds. I fell into PR following a stint of English teaching in Tokyo, and after my first week of temping at a London consumer agency, I knew the press releases, media relations, photo shoots and strategic plans were for me.
I learned fast, saying that I still make mistakes, but like a sponge, I took in as much as I could. Maybe I knew somewhere deep inside that one day I would go it alone, so I would keep my files and contacts up to date, take all the training I could, and while those long trips across Europe were hard work, they were a great way to learn and a lot of fun too!
Today I know that my kid’s school plays take centre stage over any board meetings, while I love Jimmy Choos and a killer dress, trainers and faded jeans are my current staples, and I will happily swap football cards and glittery stickers for all those stamps in my passport.
For me, working for myself is a no brainer.
I love my work, I love PR, I love writing but I don’t love being tied down to someone else’s agenda, timetable or demands.
Yes, of course I have to meet the needs of my clients and the editors I write for, but if there is a sports day, I work in the evening to make up the time. The Christmas fayre can’t be missed, but I know that while I am helping on the tombola stall, I can check my emails and deal with anything important as parents spin the wheel for a bottle of Chardonnay. I have a son with a complex medical condition, and while I had to put my career on hold to look after him, I was still able to use side hustles to keep my hand in which means I am now back in the saddle and building something for the future.
Today I work with a wide range of start-ups, small businesses, charities, and more established brands. Not only do I enjoy my work and the way I help clients to grow, I want to make a contribution to our household, I believe it is important to have a career you love, and I am proud to show my sons that mummy is here to do more than just clean up socks and pants.
I am writing this because, I want people to see the value of going with the small business over the bigger ones.
Yes, Amazon might be cheaper and get products to you before you have even pressed buy (you know what I mean) and those BOGOF offers might be tempting, but are you making a difference to anyone by spending your money that way?
You can’t always go with the little guys, but when you can, please do.
Use local boutiques and gift shops over faceless chains when you are looking for presents and new clothes.
How about using the local milkman? Not only do you get fresh milk and juice delivered to your home before you wake, but glass bottles help with recycling and cutting down plastic waste.
Designers and printers are all around us, use the small set ups, rather than the massive websites who keep sending you emails about ordering extra pens and coasters.
The artisan baker, farm butcher and village pharmacy are way nicer than the bigger supermarkets, and you never know who you might meet as you buy your bread or pick up a prescription.
Every time I get a new brief or project, it’s a big deal that I celebrate and appreciate. It matters, it’s an achievement, it’s a step closer to paying the bills and I know that many other small businesses feel this way too.
We don’t get paid holidays or sickness pay, maternity leave can be hard to take, accounts are fiddly and the to do lists builds every day, but I wouldn’t swap my way of working, my freedom and the ability to do it my way, for anything.
Support a small business this December and know you are doing something special, for someone special.